FFECTS OF THE
Edward J. Fuller, Penn State University
Over the past decade, researchers and policymaker have increasingly focused on the importance of principals in improving student outcomes, particularly as measured by changes in student test scores. A small but growing body of research, in fact, concludes that principals have an important impact on student test scores independent of the other factors affecting achievement.
This increased interest in school leader effectiveness has sparked attentiveness to the quality of the programs that prepare school leaders.
For example, organizations like the National Conference of State Legislatures
and the Center for American Progress
have called for the creation and adoption of principal preparation program (PPP) accountability systems to mirror those being created for teacher preparation programs. While such calls do not focus on test-based accountability exclusively, the impact of PPP graduates on K-12
students’ test scores is a primary component of many proposed systems.
Issues associated with a lack of data and inadequate statistical methods, however, have made the evaluation of PPPs exponentially more difficult than evaluations of teacher preparation programs.
Undeterred by both the paucity of extant research on how to best evaluate PPPs and the methodological weaknesses of existing studies, several states (including Florida, Ohio, Massachusetts, and New York) have developed PPP evaluation
systems that use metrics such as graduates’ effectiveness in improving student
achievement, principal placement rates, and the retention rates of graduates in leadership positions as indicators of program efficacy. A recently released RAND report,
Preparing Principals to Raise Student Achievement: Implementation and Effects of the New Leaders Program in Ten Districts
takes on the monumental task of evaluating the effectiveness of the New Leaders (NL) principal preparation program. The New Leaders program, a non-profit organization founded in 2000 by a team of social entrepreneurs and based in New York City, says its mission is to improve student outcomes by preparing effective leaders and improving the working conditions of principals.